Welcome to the launch of UNFPA’s State of World Population 2012 report, entitled “By Choice, Not by Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights and Development.”
UNFPA’s report makes the case that voluntary family planning is a human right. Moreover, because it’s a right, everyone who wants access to family planning should have access to it. For just about one dollar for every person on earth, everyone could realize this right.
Family planning is one of the most critically important investments that we could make: in health, in women’s rights, and in the life trajectories of young people. With age-appropriate sexuality education and access to contraception, the young can truly plan for schooling, work and childbearing on their terms.
However, despite promises and resolutions and conventions that affirm the value of family planning, it remains out of reach for a staggering 222 million women in developing countries. There are many factors that contribute to this gap – limited availability of services, cost, and a host of conditions in the lives of women and men that prevent them from accessing sexual and reproductive health services. These barriers are limiting their rights.
Unchallenged, the lack of family planning perpetuates poverty and gender inequality, and can lead to population pressures in poor countries struggling to meet basic human needs. We know that, without the means and the power to decide freely and responsibly how many children to have and when to have them, women are at greater risk of poor health and poverty.
The data show that access to family planning unlocks unprecedented rewards at both the individual and national levels, where it can contribute to economic development. The cumulative effect of these highly personal decisions can influence entire countries and regions. Added together, personal choices can inspire policies that improve lives.
As the strengthening economies of Mexico and the Asian Tigers have proven, reducing the number of dependents on each worker as the State invests in development for its people can drive impressive social and economic growth.
Indeed, UNFPA’s State of World Population report shows that family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development.
If the global community invested $8.1 billion a year, we could erase the unmet need, and millions more could write the story they want for their own lives.
In my own country, Nigeria, a recent study showed that if the fertility rate fell by just one child per woman, annual per capita incomes would rise over the course of 20 years – from $1,452 a year to $1,640. Multiply that amount by the total number of Nigerians, and you could see the economy grow by at least $30 billion. That dollar invested, per couple, per year, is the fulfillment of a human right that becomes an economic powerhouse.
No matter where I travel, I meet women who tell me the same thing: they want to have fewer children but don’t have the power or means to avoid an unintended pregnancy.
Many men also say they want to have the means to help their wives or partners have only the number of children they desire.
For these women and men, the right to family planning cannot be realized without us. Governments and service providers must make sure that voluntary family planning reaches everyone who wants access to it, especially the poor.
We can tear down financial, social and other barriers that prevent access.
We can provide life-skills training and age-appropriate sexuality education to young people.
We can create and enforce laws that protect women’s rights.
As many of you know, UNFPA, the Government of the United Kingdom, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others joined forces in July to mobilize funds to make voluntary family planning services available to an additional 120 million women in developing countries by 2020.
This is a positive step forward. However, we need to do more, much more.
Developing countries themselves have stepped up their commitments to funding family planning. At the London family planning summit, their pledges totaled $2 billion.
These new investments in family planning will be more effective if they are part of national efforts to improve sexual and reproductive health.
The global human community has spoken: Family planning is central to nearly every aspect of development. That's why it must be central to the global development agenda that will follow the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.
Hundreds of millions of women, men and young people are counting on us to support their rights. We must not let them down.